When you think artisanal chocolate, Europe comes to mind. Belgium, Switzerland, France, Denmark—we look upon these countries, and the chocolates they produce, to satisfy our chocolate cravings. Little did we know that artisan-level chocolates are now being produced locally, using local ingredients even! That’s Theo & Philo Chocolates in a nutshell.
Theo & Philo was started by Philo Chua, a Pinoy expat who fell in love with cooking, baking, and eventually, chocolate. As he delved deeper into chocolate history, he recognized that while Europe had all the best chocolates, all their cacao was imported from countries near the equator where cacao thrived. Deciding that chocolate was best made near its source, he packed his bags for home. Procuring his cacao beans from Davao and his sugar from Bacolod, he then embarked on a true chocolate lover’s dream—he started making his own chocolate from scratch.
The idea of a homegrown gourmet chocolate brand intrigued me immediately. After locating a nearby retailer, I managed to get my hands on three bars. Kapeng Barako, Siling Labuyo, and Green Mango & Salt. The weirder, the better I figured. Being the chocolate Philistine that I was—I confess, I can’t appreciate Dark Chocolate—I stayed away from the 70% Dark Chocolate that was trying to lure me with its pretty packaging. The bars themselves were a bit on the small side. At 95 to 100 pesos a bar, it’s priced with a premium, compared to other local chocolates.
The first bar I tried was the Kapeng Barako. I took it out of the fridge a few minutes before eating as I was instructed, letting it go down to room temperature first. Described as dark chocolate with freshly ground kapeng barako bits, the Kapeng Barako bar is one for coffee lovers. I loved the distinct flavors of chocolate and coffee. It wasn’t a mocha bar, it was a bar of chocolate and kapeng barako. The texture was a bit gritty due to the coffee bean bits and while it’s delicious, I easily got tired of the grit.
Next came the Green Mango & Salt. I prepared myself for weirdness, the way a non-Filipino probably does before being forced to wolf down some balut. I was pleasantly shocked that the flavor was far from weird. The green mango bits were fleshy and not as sour as I thought it would be, being more reminiscent of a fruit and nut bar. Only, instead of raisins, you get green mangoes. The salt brought out the chocolate’s sweetness, creating a lovely symphony of flavors with each bite. This is easily my favorite variant.
My last bar was the Siling Labuyo, or the local Filipino chili. Each bite packed a wonderfully spicy kick. Much like the chilis it’s made with, the bar, though small, packed a kick-ass wallop that’ll please lovers of spicy things. Aside from the three flavors I tried, Theo & Philo also comes in 70% Dark Chocolate, Milk Chocolate, Pili & Pinipig and the newest flavors: Ginger, Calamansi and Sea Salt.
Spread the love and buy some for yourself and for your friends. These chocolate bars will make an excellent gift for chocolate lovers and adventurous eaters. Wrapped in patriotic-themed paper, it’s ready for gift-giving. Tie a ribbon and you’re done! That is, if you can resist keeping it all for yourself.